Believe me, it took a lot of mental restraint not to write ‘Les Bleus-print’ in the headline, so the opening line will have to suffice.

France are heading back to the World Cup final – a third final in their last four major tournaments.

The reigning world champions return to the stage they are now so used to, having seen off 2022 sweethearts in Morocco and putting the Atlas Lions to the sword in a clinical 2-0 win at the Al Bayt Stadium.

When France took a fifth-minute lead through Theo Hernandez, there were plenty expecting them to get up to their usual tricks – sit back and take the sting out of what could have easily been a fiery game as possible.

For the most part, that is what happened.

Before Randal Kolo Muani added a second late on, Les Bleus had to weather an aggressive but ultimately impotent Moroccan storm. Hugo Lloris’ biggest save was to lightly brush an overhead kick from Jawad El Yamiq a couple of inches to his right onto the post, the North African side often too frenzied in their thinking when getting into those really dangerous areas such was France’s defensive might.

That’s not to take away from Morocco, however. They put up as much as a fight as they could and will still go down in history as the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.

Harry Symeou hosts Andy Headspeath, Quentin Gesp and Jack Gallagher to look back on the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia – join us!

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But they ran into the worthy champions, the lads with the title-belt around their collective waist, a near-immovable object with telling quality in both boxes.

Didier Deschamps has often faced criticism for his conservative style, but he’s done pretty much the absolute most he could have done in the last six years. France will have at least claimed silver at this World Cup in addition to Euro 2016, crowning gold back in Russia in 2018.

With only a handful of weeks with his ever-changing squad a season, Deschamps’ remit is to be in as best shape possible for seven games every two years. Qualification comes at a canter because he has instilled a professionalism that was flat out absent from previous eras at Clairefontaine.

France are no longer a team on the tip of crisis at any given moment, but rather one standing on the shoulders of giants.

Kylian Mbappe has been one of the best players this World Cup as expected, but their success has also been based on the reinvention and reinvigoration of old favourites like Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Hugo Lloris. The likes of Aurelien Tchouameni and Ibrahima Konate have stepped into the system seamlessly, too.

France head into Sunday’s final with Argentina without fear. They’ve been there and done that, most of their core having overcome the pressures to become world champions before – the same cannot be said of Lionel Messi and La Albiceleste, and that will at least play some part as the week progresses.

Every single country on this planet would trade their last six years of international football for that of France’s. This era, regardless of how the final ends, has been an undoubted success.


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